22 September 2017

A Note on #STLVerdict

by Daniel Gerdes, Brown School practicum student and Partnership Performance Coordinator at Social Innovation St. Louis

It’s been another difficult week here in St. Louis; this summer has seen a lot of challenges for our community. I wanted to share a personal reflection on the Stockley verdict and what I’ve witnessed in our community over the past several days.

After our Thread STL member meeting on Monday, I was reminded of the importance of being in community when we experience collective trauma. Hearing the perspectives of my colleagues was grounding and reassuring. I also couldn’t help but connect the events of the past several days to Thread’s guiding principles.

Authentic Community Voice – No decision about us without us.

We are authentic when we put community at the center, working with, not for or on behalf of, our constituencies. This is rooted in mutual trust and relationships.

While some view this weekend’s protests as reactionary and unhelpful, I see them much differently. This is not the first time our community has taken to the streets to call for justice. It’s not the first time this year, or even in the last month that members of the St. Louis community have taken to the streets to make their voices heard on issues important to them. So, what’s going on here?

I hear our fellow community members asking for someone with power and authority to truly listen to their pain, but getting no response. What happens when our voices aren’t being heard? We try different strategies, like protesting, to get someone to listen. To me, the actions across the city this weekend provide clear evidence that authentic community voice is not valued in our city.

Protests are a powerful demonstration intended to disrupt. They are intended to redirect focus from our daily lives to issues of critical importance. Over 1,000 people gathered at Maryland & Euclid on Friday night to call on the board of aldermen, their fellow citizens, the police department, service providers, schools, religious institutions, and everyone in between to listen to and feel the pain of our black brothers and sisters.

As a community activist, future social worker, and policy advocate, I call upon all of us to think deeply about our roles as this movement continues:

  • How do the actions over the past week relate to your community partnership?
  • How will you show up to sustain the push for justice in St. Louis?
  • How can you leverage your knowledge, skills, connections, positions, and resources to this end?
  • How will you work to ensure your constituents are not only heard in your partnership, but have a role in visioning, planning, and decision-making?

This weekend has provided yet another opportunity for us to revisit the ways we live out our guiding principles. Our communities are crying out for help – it is our duty to listen, to learn, and join forces with them to build an equitable, just, and thriving St. Louis.

If you are struggling to process everything that’s happened over the last week, you’re not alone; feel free to reach out to Thread staff or any of your Thread STL colleagues listed in the directory.

16 August 2017

Revisiting Thread STL’s Mission, Vision, and Values in a Time of Mayhem

Dear Thread Members and Friends,

As many of you know, Thread has spent much of its time and energy this year on the fundamental task of clarifying who we are and what we stand for – a task that, today, seems especially relevant as those of us engaged in community change work are forced to operate in a chaotic, confusing, and threatening social and political environment. After many months prioritizing this task, we are pleased to submit to you our refreshed Mission, Vision, Member Statement, and Guiding Principles. We think they are more important now than ever.

Although the process of clarifying our Guiding Principles started within the Steering Committee, it was in response to questions that we received shortly after we launched, including “What is Thread and what is Thread’s vision?,” “who is Thread trying to serve?,” and “what values will guide Thread?” The Steering Committee took these questions seriously and devoted a lot of time to craft an initial Mission, Member Statement, and set of Guiding Principles to offer for feedback from our stakeholders.

An essential part of this process was to engage the experts in helping us answer these questions…and because we envision strong community partnerships, our region’s community partnership and coalition leaders (that’s YOU!), are the experts we needed to engage! We received thoughtful and constructive feedback from over 30 of you in response to our draft materials that were released at our Annual Meeting in April, and in one-on-one conversations throughout the months of May and into June.

From the hatred and vile behavior that was on display last weekend in Charlottesville, to the more subtle forms of racism and bigotry that occur every day, we are reminded of how essential it is for us to live into our own Guiding Principles. In the spirit of the work Thread members do every day, we, as an organization, are committed to working in partnership to:

  1. Lift up community voice to advance the work of equity in defiance of those who wish to stifle it;
  2. Understand our nation’s divisions are rooted in social and economic injustice and structural racism, and advocate for equity and justice at every table we sit at, in every room we show up in, in every partnership we facilitate and participate in, and to every funder we receive support from;
  3. Identify, celebrate, and share the skills, knowledge, and assets inherent in all, and leverage them to strengthen our programs, organizations, partnerships, and sector;
  4. Use data and evidence to continuously assess, reflect, learn, and grow to further our impact and work towards our vision of an equitable, just, and thriving St. Louis region.

So, during this time while most of us are still processing the tragic events of this weekend, we’re pleased to share with you the resulting product of our months-long journey to define our group’s Mission, Vision, Member Statement, and Guiding Principles (the full text is available at the bottom of this post). Although we’ve removed the word “draft” from the document, we do not see this as a final product. Thread is a work in progress and the Steering Committee commits to reviewing and reflecting on these statements regularly and we hope to continue to do this alongside you, our members and friends. We also know that as an entity, we have our own work to do to live up to our own Guiding Principles and we invite you to hold us accountable to them. Additionally, we know we have some work to do to build programming that is mission-aligned.

If you find yourself in need of more time to process the events in Charlottesville, or if you’d like to think about how as a community change agent you can help respond to the  hatred and violence our country is experiencing, we found these thought-pieces from Nonprofit Quarterly and Nonprofit AF helpful places to start.

Lastly, we’ve heard from you that your work as community partnership and coalition leaders can be incredibly rewarding but also at times feels lonely and is often misunderstood. Our hope is that moving forward, Thread is a true community of practice, here to support and sustain you in your important work, especially when it feels extra tough. So, if you need some support, reach out to one of your fellow Thread members or to us — that’s what we’re all here for.

With gratitude,

Thread STL

Our Mission

Thread STL is a peer learning community that builds and sustains the skills and passion of partnership leaders.

Our Vision

We envision strong community partnerships building an equitable, just, and thriving St. Louis region.

Our Members

Thread STL was created by and for community change makers. As a peer learning community, members share a commitment to community partnership as an expectation for sustainable, impactful community change, as well as a commitment to learning and development.

Thread primarily seeks to serve those whose role is to lead or manage a community partnership—in a full-time, part-time, or unpaid capacity—and those who provide crucial resources to support community partnerships, including funders, advocates, and advisors.

How does Thread define “community partnership”?

Thread STL defines “community partnership” as a group of stakeholders working to achieve shared goals within a community. Examples include an association working at the neighborhood level to reduce crime, a team working regionally to improve graduation rates, or a partnership working to address lead abatement in one municipality. Participants often come from multiple sectors typically including faith, arts and culture, business, community development, social service organizations, health, media, government, law enforcement, and education. These groups are sometimes also called alliances, or councils, as well as, partnerships and coalitions.

Our Guiding Principles

The following principles form the core of what we value and how we behave as an organization. We commit to uphold these values within Thread and ask our members to do the same within their own work.

Authentic Community Voice

No decision about us without us.

We are authentic when we put community at the center, working with, not for or on behalf of, our constituencies. This is rooted in mutual trust and relationships.


– Within Thread, our community is primarily our members. We actively listen to our members and seek their input to determine our agenda and make key decisions. We create and model structures and processes that build member commitment and leadership.
– We expect Thread members to put their community at the center of their own efforts, authentically listenting to their constituents.

Equity & Justice

Equity is the only acceptable goal. -Paul Farmer

We acknowledge that the divisions in our region are rooted in social and economic injustice and structural racism.


– Within Thread, we commit to promoting equity and justice within our structure, processes, and programs, seeking guidance from experts when it is needed and support our members through their own efforts to uphold this principle.
– We expect Thread members to be deliberate about pursuing their understanding of, acknowledging, and actively addressing inequity within their own work.

Build on Assets

Everyone has something to offer.

We know that our members have many strengths and assets from which to build and are a source of learning and inspiration.


– Within Thread, we seek to build on the strengths and assets of our members and create ways for them to share their best practices and celebrate their successes.
– We expect Thread members to acknowledge and build upon the strengths and assets of their partners and constituencies, recognizing that everyone has something valuable to contribute.

Continuous Improvement

Learning never stops.

We further our impact when we use data and evidence to engage in continuous reflection, learning, and growth.


– Within Thread, we seek to foster a culture of learning by providing methods and tools that are grounded in experience and evidence for our members to use to integrate continuous learning.
– We expect Thread members to commit to use data and evidence to aid their own development and honor opportunities for growth, learning, and collaboration.

19 July 2017

Thread STL Member Snapshot: Hannah Allee

In this recurring section of our blog, we regularly feature some of the work of our members with the hopes that the profile might inspire some new connections, ideas, and community building. If you’re a Thread STL member and interested in being a future Member Snapshot, drop us a line at info@threadstl.org.

Hannah Allee is the Out-of-School Time System Specialist for the United Way of Greater St. Louis and the Greater East St. Louis Youth Coordinating Council.

Member Name: Hannah Allee

Title: System Specialist, Out-of-School Time

Name of partnership, coalition, or collective impact effort: Greater East St. Louis Youth Coordinating Council/East Side Aligned

What is your effort trying to achieve? East Side Aligned is a movement to align policy, practice, and investment to improve the health, readiness, and well-being of children and youth in greater East St. Louis. Coalitions of organizations and leaders work in specific areas or systems to ensure child well-being. The Greater East St. Louis Youth Coordinating Council (YCC) is a coalition of out-of-school (OST) time providers working to ensure equitable access to high-quality out-of-school time opportunities for all children and youth in the greater East St. Louis community.

How did you first get involved with your effort? What drew you in? During my first social work practicum I worked in administration at the East St. Louis School District 189 (District 189) and started going to planning meetings for what would later be called East Side Aligned (ESA). The next year I served as a practicum student for ESA where one of my main responsibilities was to support youth facilitating community forums. A few years later, I’ve made a bit of a full circle and have the opportunity to serve as backbone support to many of the organizations that led those first planning meetings and whose youth have led the ESA movement from the beginning.

I was skeptical at first about doing practicum at District 189 because I had worked on the Missouri side previously and wanted to learn St. Louis better, but from the get go in East St. Louis, I found something there that felt different (shout out to Thread member, Barbara Levin for talking me into it!). There is a widespread, genuine love for people and community in East St. Louis that I think drives a desire to work together. That love drew me to the work and keeps me in it.

When your friends and family found out you do this work, what do they say or ask? I get a lot of “that’s really cool” or similar comments. When people know I went to social work school, they have a specific picture in their mind of what social work looks like and it’s not this. I think a lot of people don’t know that jobs like this exist and are glad to hear they do.

What do you think will change the most about your effort in the next five years? ESA began as a planning process and now we’re starting to implement that plan. That in and of itself is a big change. As backbone staff, service providers, and community members, we’re still figuring out what that looks like but I think the biggest change is we’re all going to see more radical and innovative collaboration happening in East St. Louis in support of our youth.

Since the beginning, there have been young people engaged in ESA. In the coming years, I hope to see ownership of this work grow within more young people and that adult leaders step back a little bit, letting young people use their power to create the change they want to see their community.

What are some of your strongest beliefs that support the work you do or your approach to it? I was drawn to social work and youth development because I saw that the world wasn’t working how it should for a lot of kids, they didn’t have the support they needed to be successful, and I wanted to do something about it. I now recognize and am continuing to learn and understand that the world “not working” isn’t something that happened by mistake, systems have been created intentionally and inequitably. My belief that together we can change that reality, and that we can achieve racial equity, is what drives me to the work.

What might someone be surprised to know about you? My acrobatic cat broke my blinds. No joke – I think I might have one of the most ridiculous cats around – climbing on top of doors, tightrope walking the shower rod, weaving in and out of blinds – it’s an adventure.

How would someone else describe you? A little intense sometimes. Good at connecting the dots. Responsible. Intentional. Authentic. Systems thinker.

What do you do when you’re not working? I spend a good bit of my weekends with West County Community Action Network (WE CAN), a community of folks who are working to address racial injustice in West County. If you live, work, or grew up in West County, check us out. ☺

I feel pretty fortunate to have a strong network of friends and family in St. Louis. Most of my time not working I spend with the awesome people who make St. Louis home. Occasionally you’ll find me swimming at the Y or reading a book in my backyard.

What are you most proud of about your work? Tell us about a small win or big achievement and why it’s important. This year YCC lived out a couple years of planning to share student data between District 189 and service providers. There were a lot of steps – writing a data sharing agreement, training staff, and figuring out the technical process – but together we made it happen. It’s been amazing to hear how data has made providers feel more equipped to do their jobs supporting young people. They’re asking kids informed questions about what’s going on and how they can help. They’re working with young people to set personal goals informed by how they’re doing in school at that very moment. We’ve still got some kinks to work out but I’m proud to say that a little work and a lot of trust is moving us in the right direction.

What’s the best way for other Thread STL members to contact you? hannah.allee@stl.unitedway.org

What’s the best way for other Thread STL members to learn more about your effort? Check out www.eastsidealigned.org where you can sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook by searching @EastSideAligned.